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By Erika Wright

In studying for future health: clinical Narratives and the Nineteenth-Century Novel, Erika Wright argues that the emphasis in Victorian reviews on disorder because the fundamental resource of narrative clash that has to be resolved has obscured the complicated analyzing practices that emerge round the proposal of health and wellbeing. by means of transferring cognizance to the ways in which prevention of ailment and the renovation of healthiness function in fiction, either thematically and structurally, Wright deals a brand new method of examining personality and voice, order and temporality, environment and metaphor. As Wright finds, whereas canonical works via Austen, Brontë, Dickens, Martineau, and Gaskell sign in the pervasiveness of a standard “therapeutic” type of motion and mode of studying, they display besides an both robust funding within the success and upkeep of “health”—what Wright refers to as a “hygienic” narrative—both in own and family behavior and in social interplay of the person in the group.

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15 The novel works toward helping Marianne reach this level of awareness and health—or, more specifically, it works toward helping the reader see how Marianne develops this sense. Colonel Brandon aids the reader by pointing out that although Marianne has been saved from the moral fate of the Elizas, she remains in danger of suffering the same physical consequence and thus has not quite achieved that balance between virtue and health. Part of the tragedy for Colonel Brandon is that the previously healthy girl he loves has become melancholy and sickly.

21 She offers “assur[ance] of her daughter’s being a very well-disposed, good-humoured girl” but then confirms the alternative meaning of disposition when she shares her hope that her daughter’s health will improve as a result of her contact with Mansfield Park’s salubrious “air” (11). The novel’s interest in Fanny’s improvement, however, never fully materializes, as key episodes that appear to feature her as the heroine of a cure plot turn, instead, on her preventionist perspective. In fact, we are encouraged from very early on to see Fanny as a struggling preventionist.

Mrs. Price’s complaint serves as a general comment to anyone who will listen about her dissatisfaction but also suggests quite simply that Fanny does not know this particular street—this is not her home. Recounting Fanny’s Portsmouth life through estrangement and structural disorder allows Austen to invoke a preventionist—or what I refer to elsewhere as a “hygienic”—mode of reading and thinking. We need to see Portsmouth as a new place in order for this return to feel more like an originary moment, a moment that has “come before” earlier episodes, before Mary rode her pony and before Maria jumped the ha-ha.

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Reading for Health: Medical Narratives and the Nineteenth-Century Novel by Erika Wright


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